Steve Kidd's Review Pages

Albums


Army Of Freshmen - Under The Radar

2006
Mark: 10
Chris Jay, Aaron Goldberg, Owen Bucey, Dan Clark, Kai Dodson
Producer: David Gordon Green

"How do you judge an album? Do you mark down for tracks you are not so fond of? I’ve never really thought about reviewing albums until I put this on this morning and realised, you know, it could be my favourite album of all time! Huh!!!! What about Revolver, Quadrophenia, Led Zep 4, Tapestry ?? You have a point, but it was just a thought which crossed my mind. Army Of Freshmen jumped on stage on Valentine’s day at Leeds in 2007 (I think) and reopened those synaptic pathways that had been dulled through repetition and countless nights pretending I was enjoying myself (I guess a lot of nights I wasn’t pretending) playing mine and other people’s favourite records.

This album has all the right elements, melodies, hooks, power, vocals, cool middle 8s, sing along choruses, and a band which just seems to be enjoying themselves just so much.

I know when you invest in a band you love them more, so forgive me, but this album has never a dull moment (another good album that) and I would have to do a lot of serious analysis and comparison before I could declare it outright my favourite. But shit, it’s in the mix.

Earth Wind and Fire – I Am
Squeeze – East Side Story..."


Ed Sheeran - ÷

2017
Mark: 4.5
Ed Sheeran + etc
Producer: Ed Sheeran etc

OMG - am I the only person in the world to not like this album? It is not horrible by any stretch, but that is the point, it is.... safe; tells us how old Ed Sheeran was when he saw his old flame out with a marine, he's 23, he'll kill me, but not as joyfully as that, he throws a little bit of the Irish in here, and how about this?, let's do some African here, and lets lay it on the line how I love my mother, leaving no real anger, nothing to offend, nothing... It could have been a Westlife album. I have no doubt that Ed Sheeran is a great bloke, an extraordinarily competent singer , player and wrtiter who has 'paid his dues' I am also sure that he is a dream ticket for a record company who want to maximise sales to a population who want sedating even more.

Like Brian Cox, I think he may have been emasculated by the people who pay him. He may a product of 'nice' western society, which waits politely and punches the numbers to get through to an operator if you are lucky, who's idea of a holiday is flying to a hotel 3,000 miles away which is pretty similar to 10,000 others within the same radius, who's idea of doing the right thing is a compromise. He may be to the 2010s what Perry Como was to the 50s. I don't have solutions, I am negative, but hell, I wish he'd make a record which had some real aggression to thereby highlight the kinder emotions.


Yes - Fragile

1971
Mark: 10
Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford
Producer: Eddy Offord

Should the NME feel some guilt, specifically about their dissing of 'Prog-Rock'?

Only five years after this album was released 'new wave' was garnering some attention. By 1978 there was little else. I consider 1979 the golden year of pop music, even the shit was fantastic (Nolans, Sheena Easton, Liquid Gold). No two ways about it, the charts were galvanised by 'punk', but... Billy Idol? Strawberry Switchblade?? Cyndi Lauper??? The Stranglers????

Music is all about 'showing off', (read This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession " by Daniel J. Levitin), so hell, let it rip. But the thing is, whether or not Yes were 'showing off' is immaterial, this album has 'soul' It is obvious that the guys who made it loved a lot of it and that a great deal of satisfaction must have been garnered at its completion. It just sounds great, and though it might not have had the edge of Give 'Em Enough Rope, it had an energy that transcends snobbishness.

On an entirely personal level, on re-listening to it after a 30 year absence, I realise how many of my touchstone musical tropes were introduced/affirmed by bits of this album. It is magical, and only in my dotage I realise just how.

So yes. For employing Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons, the NME should feel guilt. Punk would have happened without those two self involved twats. But it did a pretty good job otherwise. And some Prog Rock was wonder wonder wonderful.